Immigration, Obamacare Fixes Left Out As Giant Spending Bill Shambles Toward Passage

The House missed one deadline last night, but Congress is expected to pass an omnibus appropriations bill by the end of the week, with or without more drama. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives missed its own internal deadline of midnight Monday for releasing the text of a massive omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the federal government until October. But reports are seeping out that negotiators have tossed out a lot of the controversial “riders” (extraneous policy provisions) that threatened to foul up the process. This will anger their sponsors, but probably reduces the odds of another government shutdown when the stopgap spending bill enacted in February expires.

It appears at this point that the huge spending package will not include an immigration deal, Obamacare stabilization, an online sales tax authorization, Planned Parenthood defunding, or a funding cutoff for “sanctuary cities.” There’s still interest in the Hudson River Gateway tunnel project, but the president has threatened to veto the whole bill if that’s included. There’s also been talk of Veterans Administration reforms being tossed in, but it’s looking less likely as time runs out.

Extension of Federal Aviation Administration funding still seems likely, along with some sort of additional disaster money. And believe it or not, negotiators are still talking about gun regulation, as the Hill reports:

Among the more surprising riders still in play is a bipartisan bill designed to bolster the background check system before gun sales. The House had passed the Fix National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) bill earlier in the year, but it’s gone nowhere in the Senate after House Republicans paired it with partisan legislation expanding the right of gun owners to carry concealed weapons nationwide — a nonstarter with most Democrats. 

“Fix NICS is on the table, however, there is a little bit of resistance because that had been coupled with concealed-carry reciprocity before and now it’s not,” Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) said as he left Monday’s meeting. 

This could be an example of a poison pill no longer being a poison pill because its own poison pill was removed.

The missed deadline last night does mean that the House cannot vote on the omnibus until Thursday. And that will leave very little time for the Senate to make changes that have not already been negotiated.

The main source of disgruntlement at the shape of this bill will be among House conservatives, who don’t like the higher spending levels and who have championed several of the dropped riders. But as is often the case, House Democrats are likely to supply enough votes for the bill to make the loss of some House Freedom Caucus members unimportant.

If the omnibus passes, the year’s funding disputes can finally be laid to rest until the fall, when you can probably expect a stopgap spending bill to get Congress past the midterm elections. It’s a hell of a way to do business, but like so many aspects of 21st-century politics, we’re getting used to it.

Congress Sheds Controversial Riders on Giant Spending Bill